‘I Don’t have a Story to Tell’

I had not spent much time thinking about eyebrows until I became part of the team for the ‘Brews n Brows’ research event at FACT. My own PhD thesis is an oral history of dock work in the twentieth century, so I spend more time reading about hydraulic winches than HD brows. However, the focus on identity, culture and Liverpool in ‘Brews n Brows’ had me hooked. I also knew that I could not give up the chance to work in such a brilliant team. As an eyebrow novice, the experience was a learning curve both professionally and personally.

I developed my research skills and broadened my methodological knowledge through taking part in a focus group, using a 3D scanner, taking photographs and helping with filming equipment. My favourite aspect was being able to talk to people from Liverpool and people visiting the city about a topic everyone can relate to in one way or another. A lot of the conversations I had began with ‘I don’t have a story’ or ‘you don’t want to talk to me’ but ended with rich accounts of eyebrow grooming practices. Men and women who knew they were coming to the event were happy to discuss how they had trimmed, plucked or tinted their brows before arriving. Likewise, many participants were very pleased to say they had never done anything to them. That was the beauty of this project! Either way, eyebrows were seen to be an important part of how people understood themselves.

The common statement of ‘I don’t have a story’ really stuck with me throughout the event. At the start of the week, I would have said the same. The more I was questioned about my eyebrows, the more stories I seemed to have and mid-event the ‘Brews n Brows’ eyebrow technician had given me a wax and tint! I honestly felt like a different person and could not stop looking in the mirror. I began to realise just how important every part of our appearance is to our sense of self. The fact I had done very little to my eyebrows and kept my ‘owl brow’ – the part of my left brow that flicks upwards if left untamed – was deliberate. A choice which I realised was made based upon my teenage disaster with an eyebrow pencil. When delving deeper into my own story, I was forced to focus on my own values and the way I viewed myself.

The reflective element of my ‘Brews n Brows’ experience really taught me how to ask questions in research. Our daily lives may seem mundane or unimportant to us but our actions have far more significance than we think. Somebody taking part in the event said ‘you can tell a lot about a person from their eyebrows’. I am not sure how far I agree with this statement, but I do believe that you can tell a lot about a person by getting them to talk about their eyebrows.

Emma Copestake, University of Liverpool

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Media and news

We set up our booth, scanning corner, and photography area in the ground floor of FACT from the 25th – 28th of April. As a consequence of the publicity and buzz around our event, we made the news and local papers. The Liverpool Echo covered us on the 25th and gave a quick overview. Then North West Tonight and BBC Merseyside came to chat to us and covered our story. On North West Tonight at 6.30pm we came at the end of the hard news stories and just before the weather forecast on Friday the 27th. This meant that our event was the moment when the newscasters and the weather person have a little banter. For this segment, they asked each other about their grooming habits and speculated on how to describe the style. The word they used the most was Scousebrow, asking each other whether they would use it to describe their style. This is a term that has been named most by those outside the project and not those who have contributed, which is something we will talk about in more depth when we discuss our findings. The introduction to the feature was lighthearted and friendly. Thanks to the news item and the way it was pitched, we got many more participants through the door who specifically talked about the coverage, which was amazing.

As a follow up, we have also been interviewed by Ngunan Adamu from BBC Merseyside Upfront, who is going to feature our project on her programme. All of this has meant that we have become part of a conversation about the brow on Merseyside, which was one of our aims. The numbers are evidence of this, so too is an overheard conversation on the bus on Friday. Two girls chatting mentioned our event and discussed the language we have been using to describe it. For us, this is success. We want to keep the conversation going, so watch out for more.

Trailer

As promised, we have a trailer. This will give a taster of what is to come and is a big invite to all of you who want to tell us about your brows. We know that there are a lot of stories to tell about the brow and we want to hear them. Let this be the start of a Merseyside conversation about craft, technique, and styles.

Click here to watch it, or on the link, below.

Our event takes place at FACT Liverpool from the 26th-28th of April and includes the opportunity

  • to get your brows scanned
  • have your photo taken by a fashion photographer
  • share your story in our photo booth

and, of course, to have a brew